Obama’s long-held dream of nuclear disarmament
Obama the undergrad
Remember this? It’s one of the few papers that Obama wrote while in college or law school that is still available, a 1983 article that appeared in the Columbia campus paper.
The article is mostly straight reportage and quotes about the Nuclear Freeze Movement, featuring organizations called “Arms Race Alternatives” (ARA) and “Students Against Militarism” (SAM). But Obama reveals his own attitude in a few comments such as, “Generally, the narrow focus of the Freeze movement as well as academic discussions of first versus second strike capabilities, suit the military-industrial interests, as they continue adding to their billion-dollar erector sets.” Note the superior tone and the contempt for the military, already present in Obama at a relatively young age. To him, the “military-industrial interests” are just boys playing with expensive toys.
Obama quotes one activist as saying “everyone’s asking for peace, but no one’s asking for justice,” which (in Obama’s words), causes “one…to wonder whether disarmament or arms control issues, severed from economic and political issues, might be another instance of focusing on the symptoms of a problem rather than the disease itself.” To Obama, the real problems appear to be economic and political issues involving a lack of justice, and the arms race is a mere symptom of that deeper concern (shades of this far more recent policy statement).
Later in the article, Obama writes in his own voice again:
Perhaps the essential goodness of humanity is an arguable proposition, but by observing the SAM meeting last Thursday night, with its solid turnout and enthusiasm, one might be persuaded that the manifestations of our better instincts can at least match the bad ones…
The most pervasive malady of the collegiate system specifically, and the American system generally, is that elaborate patterns of knowledge and theory have been disembodied from individual choices and government policy. What [the students in these groups] try to do is infuse what they have learned about the current situation, bring the words of that formidable roster on the face of Butler Library, names like Thoreau, Jefferson, and Whitman, to bear on the twisted logic of which we are today a part.
This is a young man who doesn’t seem to like America a whole lot and didn’t think all that much of humanity in general either. There is no question that he believes he knows better, and has purer and more noble instincts, than those in charge. That’s not an unusual point of view for a young man, of course. But Obama seems to have managed to carry a similar attitude right up to the present.
The NY Times picked up on the attitude:
What clearly excited him was the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which would end the testing and development of new weapons, and thus, in the minds of arms controllers, end the nuclear arms race. The Reagan administration vehemently opposed the treaty. Paraphrasing Mr. Bigelow’s views, Mr. Obama said the United States should initiate the ban “as a powerful first step towards a nuclear free world.” That phrase would reemerge decades later…
Barack Obama’s journalistic voice was edgy with disdain for what he called ‘the relentless, often silent spread of militarism in the country’ amid ‘the growing threat of war.’ The two groups, he wrote, “visualizing the possibilities of destruction and grasping the tendencies of distorted national priorities, are throwing their weight into shifting America off the dead-end track.”
And Obama biographer David Remnick called Obama’s article “muddled.”
The USSR fell not that many years after Obama wrote that 1983 piece, and many people believe this happened in part because of the arms race. See this on Reagan and Star Wars:
In the arms control negotiations with the Soviets, SDI proved to be a very powerful bargaining chip, primarily because the President did not believe it was up for discussion. Secondly, as many of us who met with USSR officials came to realize, the Soviets were the most fervent believers that the U.S. could actually develop and field the complex systems needed for SDI to work! Moscow had apparently concluded that this system would tip the strategic balance toward the United States.
This came at a time that the USSR itself was falling further behind economically—much more so than many in the U.S. Intelligence Community believed.
We did not fully appreciate then that Gorbachev, unlike his predecessors, was aware of the depths that the Soviet economy had fallen. It also appears that Gorbachev was deeply concerned about the President’s SDI program, feeling that what was at stake was more than just a space defense program. He believed that if the United States combined its technological superiority with its economic potential, America would make an enormous “skachok” (leap) ahead. In doing so, we would, to use the Marxian phrase, “consign the Soviet Union to the ash- heap of history”!
It’s also instructive to remember this:
…President Obama erred in 2013 with his decision to scrap — in response to Russian objections — a planned system in Europe to defend against missile threats from the Middle East. Obama won no good will from the Russians, even as he forfeited an important opportunity to strengthen U.S. allies against future threats. Missile defense allows strong nations to defend themselves against weaker enemies without resorting to terrorist tactics or fighting bloody wars. This is a win-win, except for terrorists like Hamas and national rulers bent on aggression against neighbors.
But the dream dies hard, doesn’t it?
[Featured Image- Iranian Anti-American Mural at former US Embassy, David Holt London via Wikimedia Commons]
[Neo-neocon is a writer with degrees in law and family therapy, who blogs at neo-neocon.]
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One of the stupidest sayings in English or any other language is, “Fighting never solved anything”.
The truth is that fighting has solved MOST things in history on any level of human experience. This is especially true when you expand it to “being unambiguously READY to fight and prepared to win”. Your adversaries can do the math, and won’t indulge in adventurism.
I was thinking the other day about how many millions of lives have been saved and enriched by the Pax Americana and our nuclear arsenal. It’s a truly staggering achievement in any assessment of human experience.
It struck me that Harry Truman would have been dragged out of office if he even considered giving the Japanese terms of surrender that would allow them to both continue their twisted death cult of Shinto unabated AND develop nuclear weapons of their own.
I submit the parallel is apt.
The parallel is apt, but not effective. There won’t be consequences until a nuclear weapon is detonated in an American City (or close enough to do damage across an international border).
That weapon won’t come via a missile. While we still have to prepare for that potential from Nuclear States (USSR, China), they recognize the effective outcome of Mutually Assured Destruction and can do the math. A medium sized terrorist organization, can be plausible denied by a State, and by the time that the US can figure out where the material came from, the US would already be in a social upheaval from the damage inflicted.
9/11/2001 shut down the international borders for a week. Imagine what a nuclear weapon smuggled into the US would do as the US, still reeling from the attack itself, attempted to find and search every piece of cargo brought in to make sure there wasn’t ANOTHER one waiting to go off.
It’s not a question of IF anymore. Between Iran and North Korea, eventually a terrorist organization will either purchase or be given a weapon, and said weapon will, at least attempt to be smuggled to the US. The sole and only question is whether it is intercepted before it gets here, and likely the answer to that, simply due to volume and transit modes, would be no.
The most pervasive malady of the collegiate system specifically, and the American system generally, is that elaborate patterns of knowledge and theory have been disembodied from individual choices and government policy.
This statement by Obama the Undergrad would be prescient if it weren’t so lacking in self-awareness.
His entire worldview, indeed everything of his later actions, show specifically that he himself believes in those “elaborate patterns of knowledge and theory” but has chosen to fully ignore how “disembodiment from individual choices and government policy” causes those theories to fail miserably when put into practice.
See Obamacare generally, international diplomacy generally, and with Iran, Russia, Libya, and the European Union countries specifically (Israel intentionally omitted, because that is him actively attempting to destroy what he sees as a blight), and see environmental action by the Federal Government in attempting to stop government real estate energy development.
I sure wouldn’t want to be held for everything I wrote when I was in college.
But here, Obama’s Iranian policy is almost certainly going to lead to Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt initiating nuclear weapons programs, probably with success. Is he that delusional, or does he really think that his charisma, his insight, his overall wonderfulness, really will overcome all this?
“There is no question that he believes he knows better, and has purer and more noble instincts, than those in charge. That’s not an unusual point of view for a young man, of course. But Obama seems to have managed to carry a similar attitude right up to the present.”
This made me laugh, considering the constant flow of insulting posts about the President on this website. How does an author (Neo-neocon) who thinks he knows more than the President criticize that President for having a “similar attitude”?
Neo, how do you criticize the President for thinking his instincts pure and noble, when you believe the exact same thing about yourself?
Morons laugh out loud a lot. One symptom of their dearth of cognitive ability.
“Neo, how do you criticize the President for thinking his instincts pure and noble, when you believe the exact same thing about yourself?”
Here’s a lil’ telltale you can use, if you ever find the ability to think…
People who lie constantly are not “pure and noble”.
You never answered my questions from yesterday. Which of the things Barracula has said about the “agreement”…framework…thingie…do you believe?
Is there any lie he can tell that you will not suck up?
Rush Limbaugh said that Norman Podhoretz said that Obama is right when he says the alternative to his agreement is war.
Here it is:
That choice between a conventional war now vs surrender now and a nuclear war later is exactly the poor choice that President Obama has made. He has traded ‘peace’ now and mortgaged the future by providing a pathway for an enemy to stand in parity later.
If this “deal” proceeds, we will suffer dishonor now (which is honestly what President Obama wants, a world where the US does not lead, but is part of a nebulous, undefined ‘global community’ [made up of thugs]).
If this “deal” proceeds, we will suffer war later, with an enemy who has learned to harness the basics of the single, most destructive technology ever to be developed.
That was the point of the statement, even though it appears you missed the context.
As it happens, I don’t share Podhoretz’s opinion, which contains a large dollop of “self-fulfilling prophesy”.
When you make a bad agreement, you don’t get to assert that was the only one possible. I’ve done enough negotiation and mediation to know I never know going in. I have seen several that I gave ZERO chance of a settlement result in a deal I never could have predicted.
1. DO NOT respond to anything I post
2. when I ask someone else to address a question, SUCK YOUR TEETH, and let them answer
3. if all you can do is muddy the water…which is all you generally do…STFU.
I hope I’ve made myself clear.
Anyone can respond to any comment. This is not your personal blog.
Thanks for pointing out your hubris. It was sticking out so far I thought it was Obama’s nose.
BTW: details matter. Check out who Neo-neocon is. Then, get back to us in ten years.
one crazy mullah sending some money to a hardliner in pakistan and we are nuked.
Does anybody believe in this representation…???